Friday, February 12, 2010

Feb. 12: 5 Day Meal Plan

I make a general meal plan for about 5 days ahead. That way I have the food I need on hand, and it's prepped when we are in a hurry. I've been in the pulpit before regarding meal planning and I maintain that it's a vital part of clean eating success.

The next couple of weeks are a challenge because my oven went "kaput" so I am relying on the Foreman grill, the stove top and the microwave. Sigh - can't wait to get a new stove! Come on TAX RETURN!!!

~Organic multi-grain English muffin with goat cheese and fruit
~Whole wheat toast with natural peanut butter and fruit

Lunches/ Snacks
~ Leftovers from dinners
~ Spinach salad with leftover protein or tuna

~ Homemade trail mix
~ Pita pizzas topped with clean sauce, protein, veggies,and low fat cheese

~ Grilled salmon, bow tie pasta w/asparagus and Parmesan
~ Beef BBQ on a bun, steamed broccoli
~ Stir fry w/grilled chicken, rice noodles,and veggies
~ Grilled chicken tacos, refried beans
~ Beef and mushroom stroganoff over noodles

So, that gives you an idea on what's on the menu at our house. The food was all purchased yesterday and appropriately repackaged and frozen or stored.

Have a great weekend, everyone - keep it CLEAN!

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Feb. 11: Little Lunch Boxes

I want my child to power through the school day, learning all she can learn, playing and exercising to increase her fitness, and smiling and laughing because she just feels so darned good. As the parents, we have the power to make this a reality for our school kids simply by providing them with the appropriate fuel.

It goes without saying to send them off with an energy boosting breakfast. Studies show that kids who eat breakfast have a lower Body Mass Index, higher levels of concentration, higher marks on standardized tests, and overall higher nutritional profiles. Breakfast will be another post - today we are talking about lunch!

My youngest daughter's school has a "balanced day." Instead of having "lunch" at 12 o'clock, they have two "nutrition breaks" evenly split up throughout the day. (I love it!)So we pack two small meals in the morning. Both meals contain protein and either a fruit or a vegetable. Luckily we have no nut allergies in our school, so many of the lunches here do contain nut products. Here are some examples of the meals I send for my daughter:

Homemade oatmeal pb bar and apple

Natural pb and banana on whole wheat bread

WW wrap with grilled chicken and veggies w/yogurt dip

Celery stuffed w/ nat pb, topped with raisins

Homemade trail mix

Yogurt, fruit and granola

Soup in a thermos

Pasta in a thermos

Apple, pear or orange, and almonds

Banana Dog(WW hot dog bun spread w/ almond butter and honey, w/a banana)

Sandwich on ww bread w/ thinly sliced meat (chicken, turkey, lean beef) spinach, tomatoes

Veggies and whole grain crackers w/ humms

Veggies and whole grain crackers w/ yogurt dip

Leftovers (Cold chicken and steamed veggies are a favorite)

DD9 carries a cool lunchbox that she picked out, and I try to find interesting containers to put her foods in (although we often use Tupperware and Zippie bags.) She brings her own water in a BHA-free stainless steel bottle. Needless to say, we rely heavily on pink and purple!

I send lunches instead of relying on the school lunch program for several reasons. First, I love providing the right nutrition for her. Secondly, she suffers from egg allergies and this way it's far easier to keep her away from trigger foods. Finally, she serves as an example of healthy eating for her classmates. Even her teachers have commented on her healthy and delicious lunches!!!

Feb. 11: Vegetarian Gluten Free Foods

I got a request for some suggestions for vegetarian foods for someone who is gluten-intolerant. That's a tough one because regular breads and pastas are out. We also need to keep this on a budget.

Rice is your friend. I published a super-easy Baked Brown Rice recipe here

I'd recommend making a big batch of baked brown rice so that you always have it handy to add to your meals.

Protein is vital for the vegetarian Beans in any form are going to be great for that, as well as low-fat dairy products and eggs, if you plan to be an ovo-lacto-vegetarian. Many different ethnic foods rely heavily on vegetarian ingredients, so I'm going to post some quick and easy recipes.

1 can black beans
1 can of corn
1 can of pinto beans
1 large can of tomato juice
2 tbsp chili powder
1/2 tsp cumin
1/2tsp garlic powder
1/2 cup chopped bell pepper, any color
1/2 cup finely minced onion (optional)
1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil (EVOO)
1.) In a large saucepan saute onions and peppers (if using) in EVOO until fragrant and tender.
2.) Add all of the other ingredients and stir well.
3.) Simmer on the stove top for 45 minutes to an hour. Leave the lid on for the first half hour, then remove the lid for the rest of cooking time to allow the chili to thicken.
This delicious chili can be served in the following ways:
Just as chili
Over rice
Mixed into rice and reheated with a little cheese on it
On a corn tostada shell
Over nacho chips and topped with shredded cheese
Stuffed into soft corn tortillas for enchiladas
1/2 head of cauliflower
2 potatoes
1 can of chick peas
1 cup frozen green peas
1 tablespoon curry powder
1/2 tsp garlic powder
1/2 cup of water
1/2 cup low fat plain yogurt
1.) Cut cauliflower and potatoes into bite sized pieces.
2.) Add all ingredients except for yogurt and green peas to a large saucepan.
3.) Put the lid on the saucepan and cook it on low for approximately one hour.
4.) Check the potatoes and cauliflower to make certain they are fork-tender.
5.) When your veggies are done add green peas and heat through (about 5 more minutes).
6.) Stir in yogurt and heat for an additional minute.
7.) Serve over rice.
Some quick snacks/meals:
Refried beans and salsa with baked tortilla chips
Fruit and yogurt
Oatmeal topped with fruit
Boiled eggs on garden salad
Stir fries
Nut butters on apples, pears or celery
Home mad trail mix
Being a vegetarian can be a wonderful, healthy and ethical lifestyle choice. Good luck on your journey!

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Feb. 10: Cheat meals

Last night my daughter and I were unexpectedly invited to dinner. We haven't eaten out in nearly a month so we jumped at the chance.

I haven't had a real cheat meal for a while - about 2 weeks, so I decided to have my cheat at dinner last night. It took me forever to decide what I wanted, and I finally chose Southwestern Potato Skins as an appetizer. Yep, fried, I know. The skins were topped with chipotle grilled chicken, I asked them to go lightly on the cheese, and they were drizzled with a garlic-yogurt dressing. Really yummy, although the salt was a bit of a shock to my system.

Here's what I didn't get: Lime margaritas, an entree, a Caesar salad and dessert.

I just had an appetizer and a glass of water and I was as happy as could be with that.

Months ago, I would have had the appetizer along with all the other stuff I mentioned. I felt really great about this meal, although it raised some eyebrows. It was weird to eat with other people who eat anything they want, imbibe caloric drinks and seriously contemplate dessert. I'm pretty sheltered since I am not employed right now. I generally only eat with my kids.

Here are some tips to adding a few cheat meals to your life:

1.) Don't have a cheat meal more than once a week. More frequently than that and you run the risk of re-igniting your former bad habits.

2.) Take note of how it makes you feel. When I eat a sugar-y dessert, it gives me a pounding headache the next day. I feel sluggish and lethargic. When I eat something high in fat, I get really bad heartburn. This realization helps keep me on the "clean and narrow".

3.) Don't let a cheat meal take over your day. So, you went way overboard. You might as well eat with abandon for the rest of the day and get right back on track tomorrow, right? WRONG. If you got a ticket for running a red light, would it be okay to run red lights for the rest of the day, since you had already gotten a ticket? Not if you wanted to keep your driver's license!!! When you have a meal that is less than clean, get right back on track with the very next meal that you eat.

4.) Don't feel guilty! Guilt is highly overrated. It makes us feel like failures, and when we feel like failures we do silly things, like binge, go off-plan, or quit altogether. So plan your meal, look forward to it, savor it, and move on to the next clean meal.

Have a great day!

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Feb. 9: Clean Eating and the Environment

Eating Clean can affect more than the health of your family. It can make huge improvements on the health of the planet. There are many reasons that a diet free of processed foods and inhumanely farmed meats can positively affect the environment. Here are some of the things that I have noticed since we began Eating Clean in our household.

1.) We produce far less garbage! We no longer buy containers of beverages and food that comes in individual packages. The food we buy comes in large bulk bags, resulting in less packaging to throw away. We only drink water, tea, coffee and milk. We filter our water as opposed to purchasing it in plastic bottles, and our milk comes in bags. Coffee and tea are bulk purchases and are compost-able.

2.) We purchase local, organic, in-season fruits and vegetables This means less transit time, resulting in less pollution. The produce is free of chemicals and pesticides. It supports our local farmers and supports a more sustainable life-style.

3.) Our free-range meats contain no hormones or antibiotics. Better for us, better for the earth. The animals are eating the food they would naturally consume as opposed to being starved into a corn-based diet. As with our produce, we stick with locally farmed meats as well. This way we can be certain of what we are eating.

4.) We rarely have take out meals or fast food. Take out and fast food meals come individually wrapped with lots of packaging, much of it in non-recyclable containers. Further, the food must be transported from the restaurant to the house, and is generally not locally grown, resulting in even more transportation costs to bring it from the farm to your doorstep.

Consider Eating Clean a gift to the planet, as well as a gift to your health.

Monday, February 8, 2010

Feb. 8: Clean Eating on a Budget

A lot of my friends have commented they would love to Eat Clean but they are on a budget, so they can't. Well, I'm here to tell you, I am an unemployed single mom, and WE EAT CLEAN!!!! There is no magic trick, just a few solid tips I can give you.

1.) We only buy produce that is in-season. The stuff in the fliers that is on sale is the only produce we get. I check all the fliers carefully, keeping a list of what produce is the cheapest at what store. I choose the store with the best deals that week and buy my produce from them.

2.)I plan my menu AFTER I select my meat and produce for the week, not before. When I do it before, I end up shopping for particular ingredients, which does not keep me on budget.

3.) We only drink water, tea, coffee, and milk. Before we purchased juice, soda pop, and sugar-free drink mixes, adding $10-20 per week to our grocery bill. It took a little getting used to but now I order water when I go out too. I have coffee in the morning and DD9 has milk. We have water for the rest of the day, with the occasional cup of tea if we have been out in the cold weather.

4.) We buy produce from a food co-op. Our city has a co-op that purchases from local farmers. It's win-win, because it helps out the farmers and it helps out my family. I only discovered this when I became unemployed because I saw the fliers posted in the government offices. It is not limited to particular income levels - anyone can do it. You sign up at the beginning of the month and pay your money (I get the family of 4 pack for $20). I have added up the produce we get from this and often it would be double to triple the price if I bought the same stuff in the grocery store. It also means that I spend very little on produce for a couple of weeks. At the end of the month, you go and pick up your big bag of fruits and veggies. We've also tried stuff I might never have bought, like rutabagas.

5.) I look for inexpensive protein sources. Chicken breast 4 times a day and protein powder would be great but it's simply not in the budget. I use beans (canned and rinsed, or dry and cooked in the crock pot), eggs, Greek yogurt, nut butters, nuts, skim milk, and canned tuna.

6.) I buy some meats frozen instead of fresh. I purchase some meats frozen because they are less expensive. Sometimes I can get a great deal on frozen chicken breasts, frozen fish, and frozen turkey breast. Fish is nearly ALWAYS cheaper frozen. Just read your ingredients carefully and make sure you are just getting fish. You don't want someones butter and seasonings messing with your salmon fillet. Again, watch for the sales!

7.) We eat out VERY rarely. When I looked back at all the money we used to spend on fast food and pizza, I realized that eating clean is far cheaper for our family. Just one McCrud meal for 3 of us was right around the $20 mark. Add delivered pizza for $25 once a week. That's $45 to go towards your yummy lean meat budget! We probably eat out less than once a month now, and always have our water bottles and coolers with us when we go somewhere.

8.) I make my own bakery items and treats. This may too time consuming for some people, but it has worked well for us. When I do get full time employment, I plan to spend Sunday afternoons making food for the week ahead and I hope to keep this up as well. I make homemade tortillas (pennies for a package that would be $3 at the store), pizza dough, peanut butter oatmeal cookies, trail mix, chex mix and granola bars. This stuff is literally pennies on the dollar in comparison to the same goods store-bought.

If you are thinking about starting to eat clean, but the budget is holding you back, take a long hard look at what you are spending on take-out coffees and lattes, fast food, delivered pizza, microwave meals and frozen dinners you shove into the oven. Look at the beverage budget you spend at the grocery store every week, and keep track of how many soda pops you buy from the vending machine at work. You may well find you will SAVE tons of money eating clean.

I noticed that the first couple of weeks my bills were high, because I was purchasing staples like sucanat, pure maple syrup, and whole grain flours, pastas and baked items. Now it has evened out and for a family of 3 I spend about $200 a month on food and beverages.

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Feb. 7: I'm back!

Hi - I missed a few days on here. We have had some family issues going on and it's been hard to focus on my blog. I feel like I deal with things much better when I write about them on here, but I hate to sound like a whiner.

Long story short: we are having some money issues, and DD14 has decided the grass is indeed greener at her Dad's house, so she has moved out. The money issues I can deal with, the daughter part breaks my heart in two. She is the child that changed my life from flaky irresponsibility to motherhood. Hopefully, one day she will come back to me. I have prayed about it, and I know I just have to let go because there must be a plan in there somewhere.

So, back on track.

Planned eats for today:

m1: homemade whole wheat pancakes with banana and maple syrup, scrambled eggs
m2: iced latte with a serving of skim milk
m3: chicken, broccoli, whole wheat noodle stir fry w/honey garlic sauce
m4: homemade trail mix
m5: Chopped sirloin topped with mushrooms, broccoli, mashed sweet potatoes
m6: popcorn if hungry

The trail mix is an easy option we always have on hand. It is quite versatile.

1 part Dry roasted unsalted nuts of choice (I like cashews and almonds)
2 parts Unsweetened dried fruit (raisins, cranberries, banana chips)
Mix ingredients of choice and store in an air tight container. This is a great grab-n-go snack - I have it nearly every day and send it in DD9's lunchbox on a frequent basis. Be careful with the banana chips - some are fried in oil. (BAD)
Have a great Sunday, everyone!